On Thursday, the federal government reopens the floodgates a crack to a fraction of the tens of thousands of families hoping to sponsor parents and grandparents to come to Canada.
The government has indicated that just 5,000 applications for all of Canada will be accepted.
"It isn’t very much," said Winnipeg immigration lawyer, Reis Pagtakhan. When the federal government "froze" the program in 2011, they were receiving applications for 38,000 parents and grandparents per year, he said.
"It’s going to be a run to get there first," said Pagtakhan. "They’ve said ‘We’ll take these things first come, first served,’" he said.
The 5,000 applications will have to meet tighter admission criteria under new guidelines that Citizenship and Immigration is not revealing until Tuesday. Pagtakhan is urging anyone who is applying to sponsor parents or grandparents to carefully read Tuesday's new guidelines and make sure their paperwork is in order.
"If you’ve got a package ready to go, wait and see what the changes are," he said. There may be new forms that the parent or grandparent abroad needs to sign before the application package can be submitted. He said to email forms to those abroad and use a courier, not the mail, to forward the completed application to Citizenship and Immigration.
Make sure applicants still qualify as sponsors.
Citizenship and Immigration may reduce the number of people who can apply to sponsor their parents or grandparents by beefing-up the financial criteria "which will freeze more people out," he said.
In 2011, the federal government announced a moratorium on the sponsorship of parents and grandparents to deal with the backlog of applications. Citizenship and Immigration then announced a new "super visa" program. It allowed parents and grandparents to enter Canada as visitors for 10 years if the sponsor could afford the $100,000 in health coverage needed to get the super visa for the parent or grandparent.
"That pushes off health care costs onto the individual," said Pagtakhan. With an aging population requiring more health care services, there is some merit to letting elders visit but not stay as permanent residents, he said.
"Permanent residency health care costs are borne by residents and taxpayers," he said.
The downside is the lack of family reunification, which has been a major plank in Canada’s immigration policy, he said. Advocates say the benefits from having parents and grandparents join the family are an integral part of Canada’s social fabric and values.